About This Issue

Special moments with rare species

08-01-2009 // Mark Wexler

I ONCE HAD the opportunity to tag along with scientists who were studying Puerto Rican parrots in their only remaining habitat in El Yunque National Forest. Fewer than 30 of the parrots still survive in the wild on the island, which is why they are considered among the world’s most endangered birds. For a brief moment that day, I got a clear look at one of the parrots near a nesting cavity the researchers had been watching. Though several years have passed, the image of that animal remains as vivid as ever in my mind. Watching any bird in the wild is an enjoyable experience, but seeing one that is endangered or threatened can be particularly poignant. To observe a survivor of a vanishing species is a special moment that future generations may never experience. And as you’ll discover in this issue, your odds of viewing certain imperiled birds can increase significantly if you know when and where to look.

In the feature “Rare Experiences,” three wildlife enthusiasts describe their encounters with birds on the U.S. Endangered Species List. “I’ve waited for three decades for this opportunity,” writes Washington, D.C., birder John Pancake, who traveled to the Upper Midwest in early summer to join a tour of Kirtland’s warbler nesting sites. The secretive species breeds only in stands of young jack pines in northern Michigan.

Like the other writers in the article, Pancake came away from the outing not only with a sense of achievement but also with an understanding of why we need to protect rare species. Read about their special momentsand how you might experience the same.

No one said conservation victories come easy, and in this issue you can learn how NWF’s persistence in challenging reckless federal flood-zone construction policies is paying off after years of activism and court challenges. In the case of one of these recent successes—stopping a controversial plan to drain vital wetlands in the Mississippi Delta at taxpayers’ expense—the battle began nearly 70 years ago. It ended last year when conservationists, including NWF and its Mississippi affiliate, finally convinced federal authorities to veto the proposed project. To read about some other successes, see “Habitat Saved.”

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